Will Clarke has capped a fantastic week for Drapac Professional Cycling at the Tour of Japan by securing yet another podium in the final stage held in Tokyo.
Clarke, who held the race lead for the opening two days of the UCI 2.1 event following victory in the prologue, sprinted to third place on Sunday behind stage winner Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) and Grega Bole (Vini Fantini Nippo).
The 112.7km stage was controlled by the race-leading Tabriz Petrochemical) outfit, who let a three-man breakaway go for much of the day. Once caught, Jai Crawford and Lachlan Norris hit the front of the peloton for the final five kilometres, putting Clarke in the ideal position coming into the last 200 metres. From there, the 29-year-old benefitted from the Lampre-Merida lead out and crossed the finish line in third.
Clarke was pleased with the result.
“The team has ridden really well all week and we can be really happy with the two wins and placings,” he explained. Jordan Kerby finished as his runner-up in the prologue while Wouter Wippert sprinted to victory on day two.
Mirsamad Poorseyedigolakhour (Tabriz Petrochemical) was confirmed as winner of the General Classification while Jai Crawford finished as Drapac’s best in 12th overall.
Drapac’s Director of Performance Keith Flory, who will also take the team to the Tour de Kumano, which begins on May 29, said he was encouraged by the squad’s efforts in Japan.
“For the whole tour, each one of the riders has shown what they can do individually and more importantly as a collective,” he explained. “To get two wins, a second and a third place, plus wearing each jersey with exception of KOM is a fantastic result.
“We’ve had a few of the guys coming down mid-race with an illness [Adam Phelan and Crawford], which affected our GC ambitions, but they still worked hard and ensured the race as a whole was a success.
“Will as a whole has been a great leader on the road for the guys, as well as riding incredibly well,” Flory continued. “Jai, despite getting sick, rode a gutsy stage 5 after initiating the break to still place 10th on what was one of the most devastating days I’ve seen on the bike for a long time.”
Clarke also made mention of the tough conditions in Japan.
“It was a really hard race overall, especially stages 3 and 5 – pretty brutal!” he said. “Stage 3 was wet and cold, with lots of climbing and stage 5 was one of the hardest days I’ve spent on the bike.”
Jordan Kerby, Adam Phelan and Wouter Wippert were all non-starters for today’s final stage having missed the time cut, along with 41 other riders, on Saturday’s challenging fifth stage.
The UCI 2.2 Tour de Kumano begins Thursday, May 29 and runs until Sunday, June 1.
Results snapshot – Drapac Professional Cycling, Tour of Japan Stage 6:
3 Will Clarke (Aus) 2:22:14
25 Jai Crawford (Aus) +0:00:00
34 Lachlan Norris (Aus) +0:00:10
Final General Classification –
12 Jai Crawford (Aus) +00:10:00
22 Lachlan Norris (Aus) +0:25:27
29 Will Clarke (Aus) +0:32:15